Aloe vera is the most well-known aloe plant, prized for its medicinal value. Aloe vera plants can reach 3 feet in height and grows in rosettes and very slowly. In the summer months, aloe vera may develop stalks with clusters of tiny yellow flowers. The plant grows well as a houseplant and can be found at your local plant nursery or garden center.
Like all succulent and cactus plants, aloe vera prefers full sunlight. If grown in low light conditions, the plant develops leggy, thin growth and if kept there, it may die. Keep an aloe vera houseplant in a south or west-facing window. If you don't have natural light, provide the plant with a fluorescent plant light for at least eight hours a day.
Aloe vera needs deep and infrequent watering. To check the soil consistency, stick your finger into the soil. If it feels wet and clings to your finger, don't water. If it's dry and crumbly and does not stick, you can water. Add water until you see it flow out the drainage holes in the bottom of the container, then allow the plant to dry out thoroughly until you water again. During the winter, when the plant is naturally dormant, allow the soil to remain dry and crumbly for several days to a week before watering again.
While aloe plants are slow growers, they occasionally need repotting when they grow too large for a container. Move up only one size container and choose a container with drainage holes so the plant's roots don't sit in water. Use a cactus potting mix and fill the new container one-third to one-half full. Pull your aloe plant out of its container and break apart the root ball, unwinding tangled roots and busting soil clods. Then place the plant in the new container and top off the soil.
Aloe vera provides natural relief to skin irritations like bug bites and burns. To use the plant medicinally, break off a leaf at its base, exposing a slimy gel. Squeeze the plant leaf between your fingers, and the gel will ooze out. Apply to a skin irritation or burn. Store the aloe leaf in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week. To reuse it, cut off the exposed edge, which will have calloused over. Fresh gel will ooze out.
Fertilize the aloe plant with a 10-40-10 fertilizer in the spring when the plant resumes active growth, evidenced by the development of new shoots. Since aloe vera benefits from natural sunlight, move the plant outside during the summer. Your aloe plant will grow better than indoors. Move the plant indoors for the winter months when the temperature falls to 40 degrees F.